A good start at a response, sir! I salute you for responding on-point and with attention to a valid issue
But I don’t agree, on several items.
Regarding Trent: On Scripture, Trent reaffirmed what had always been believed since around the year 400.
You have to get a feel for the timeline. There were early Christian writers who opined on what should and shouldn’t be included in the canon; there were also early Christian writers who opined on what “canon” meant: “Inspired inerrant” is one meaning; another meaning is “suitable for inclusion among the regular readings in the liturgy.”
Everyone agreed that the four Gospels were in. By 250 nobody was questioning the Pauline corpus. But James, Hebrews, Jude, Revelation, 2nd Peter, and 2nd and 3rd John, were all open to question, included in some lists, but not in others. 1st Clement, the Shepherd by Hermas, and the Didache were all considered entirely orthodox, and advisable reading for all Christians, but there was debate about their inclusion for liturgical use (especially since the Didache seemed stylistically unsuited: more like an early basic catechism and order-of-worship guide). So they were included in some lists, but not in others. The Corinthians were particularly insistent about 1st Clement for a long while, as it had been written to them by Pope Clement.
As for the Old Testament, there wasn’t any debate: The Christians had always used the Greek Septuagint because it was the one that the apostles always quoted (including in the books which would later form the New Testament). It contained the deuterocanon, which, because it contained books considered canonical by so many Jews and in which many passages prefigured Christ or Christian teachings, was very useful in Christian apologetics and in the conversion of Jews. Seeing this, and in response to the destruction of the Temple which left non-Christian Jews wondering what their religion meant anymore, Jewish scholars at the Jewish council of Jamnia in AD 90 opted to remove all the deuterocanonical books from their canon by adopting the view that any book not written in Hebrew could not be Holy Scripture. This abolished the deuterocanon, along with Daniel and Esther and bits of other OT books, but they were worked back in.
Christians, naturally, disregarded this decision of the non-Christian Jews. It happened after Christianity was already founded; it seemed motivated partially by a desire to undercut Christian apologetics and Christian appeal to prophecy; and it seemed to turn Judaism back in on itself: More of an exclusive racial religion, and less of a “light to the Gentiles.” And anyway, it occurred during a period in which Jesus had already conferred kingdom authority to Peter and the apostles (Matthew chs. 16-18) so it had no authority. If anyone had authority to make such decisions, it would have been a council of apostles (or their successors in office) similar to that in Acts 15, not a group of Jews who’d rejected Christ as Messiah.
So they kept their existing Scriptures. Whenever the various writers of early Christianity opined on the canon, they said, “Oh, and of course the Greek Old Testament.” There seems to have been an early Tradition to include the book of Enoch as well, which is why it remains in the canon of the Coptic and Ethiopian Christians today.
Different writers offered different canons for the New Testament until 375, when Athanasius offered the one we use today. The Pope at the time (Damasus, I think?) promulgated that view (Council of Rome around 380). The bishops of North Africa reaffirmed it at their local councils of Carthage and Hippo: 27 books in the New Testament, 46 in the Old.
And it stayed that way for about 1,100 years until Martin Luther opted for his own canon, adding the word “alone” to Scriptures just after the word “faith” in one place, removing Revelation, James, Jude, and Hebrews, and replacing the Septuagint OT canon with the Jewish canon of Jamnia. In each case, the changes to the canon are best explained as being Luther’s resistance to the theology implied by those books. (Note, for example, that he didn’t remove 2nd Peter, though it was more often questioned than James and Hebrews…but the latter were too Catholic for Luther’s tastes.)
Some of Luther’s followers objected, so he returned Revelation, James, Jude, and Hebrews to his Bible, but relegated them to the back…just as later versions of the King James relegated the deuterocanon to a separate section, and eventually eliminated it.
That’s the story. What are we to make of it?
To me, the question is one of AUTHORITY. Who decides? God, of course; but when several human voices disagree about what God calls us to do, what then? Which voice is authoritative?
The Protestant answer is: We look to Scripture. But they don’t; because to know which books are IN Scripture, they must look OUTSIDE it. (It does not contain a list of the canon, or even any indication how the canon may be determined.)
The Protestants adopt Luther’s canon—his second canon, not his first. They therefore hold that Luther is authoritative…on the second try.
The Catholics hold that the bishops in communion with the bishop of Rome are authoritative. They hold that because (a.) apostolic offices are successive, as proven by Isaiah 22 and Acts 1; and, (b.) Jesus granted the apostles great kingdom authority as the new viziers or ministers under the new Davidic King (with Peter the new grand vizier or prime minister; see Isaiah 22, Matthew 16, Luke 22, John 21). And all the early Christians held likewise; no one denied it until Tertullian left to become a Montanist and then left the Montanists to form his own sect.
The Catholic view seems far more plausible to me.
But set that aside for a moment.
There is nothing in the deuterocanon which Protestants would reject except a bit in 2nd Maccabees about making atonement for the dead. Early Christians indisputably did this anyway, so we know that is orthodox early Christianity on a historical basis alone. And we know many Jews accepted 2nd Maccabees as orthodox, and that they themselves “had in view the resurrection of the dead”: It was reflective of authentic Judaism in the period from 400BC to 100AD. Only the Sadducees rejected it, because they rejected the resurrection of the dead. (And that was why they were so sad, you see? *cough* Sorry.)
So even if one did not accept that passage in 2nd Maccabees as canon, what of it? It would be a rejection of Jesus’ pattern of authority enacted over His kingdom, true, and that is no small thing! But one would be logic-bound to conclude, for history’s sake alone, that the early Christians picked up from their Jewish forebears the practice of prayers for the dead, and the apostles wrote and said nothing to stop it. (And Paul did likewise, for his dead friend Onesiphorus, in 2nd Timothy 1.)
Returning to the issue of canon, there are only two plausible counter-examples (in 1,100 years!) to the broad acceptance of the Catholic canon: They are Jerome, and Cardinals Ximenes and Cajetan in the Trent era. But please note the response of each to AUTHORITY: Jerome, after being taught Hebrew by some Jewish scholars, translated the Vulgate, and, on the word of those Jewish scholars, initially did not include the deuterocanon. Well, we know why the Jewish scholars excluded it, and we can see why Jerome listened to his teachers…until the Pope made a point of stating that the deuterocanon should be included. At THAT point, Jerome reversed course, included the deuterocanon, and argued strongly ever thereafter that he should have included it all along!
Now, you have to know Jerome to know how exceptional that was. This was an ornery old guy, and did not brook resistance to his opinions. “God’s angry scholar, was Saint Jerome, the great name-caller, who cared not a whit for the laws of libel, and in his spare time, translated the Bible.” (You should read what he wrote about Helvidius! Helvidius was the first poor slob to misunderstand the word “brother” in the New Testament to mean that Mary had other children after Jesus. Jerome excoriated Helvidius’ rank ignorance in tones scarcely fit for family reading material.)
But when the Pope said jump, Jerome asked “How high?” Because it was Peter’s successor. Hmm. Not someone Protestants ought to use as a source.
The alternative were the Christian Humanists, including Cajetan and Ximenes, around the time of Luther’s schism. The best explanation for these guys is that they were willing to bend in the interests of peace, and to adopt a scholarly distance from “their side” in the interests of giving “the other side” a fair hearing—and the Christian Humanism of Erasmus & Co. explains some psychology there, as well.
Other than those guys? Settled issue. Not a strong argument. It is more reasonable to hold that the issue had never been considered debatable until suddenly Luther started tossing out books right and left; at that point, Trent was needed to reaffirm the traditional Christian canon, which had then been in existence for over a millennium.